With over 3200 km of coastline, Colombia’s beaches draw huge crowds each and every year. But with so many idyllic sands to choose from, how do you prioritise where to visit? After spending three months in the country, I’ve come to know a bit about finding the best beaches in Colombia. (And I’ve had the sunburn to prove it!)
Whether you’re looking for bustling beach resorts, an adrenaline-fuelled water sports holiday or a deserted stretch of sand, you’re sure to find somewhere that delivers. Keep reading to discover the best beaches in Colombia!
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Best Beaches in Colombia – Sun, Sea and Sand!
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1. Palomino Beach
- Location: Palomino
- Best for: Relaxing, surfing and beach clubs
After taking on the challenging Lost City Trek through the Sierra Nevada mountains, staying a few days by Colombia’s Caribbean Coast is a true act of self-love. Palomino is the perfect place to recoup some energy, with little to do aside from sipping on Coco Locos or lounging on the sand.
Don’t miss a visit to Playa La Ola, one of the town’s premier beach clubs. As well as offering mouthwatering cocktails (best enjoyed during the daily happy hour 🤪), they also offer some of the freshest and tastiest seafood around!
While Palomino Beach is a great place to chill on a sunny day, the riptides can be dangerous so make sure you pay attention to signage regarding swimming. If paddling is off-limits, why not use the waves to your advantage and try your skills on a surfboard instead?
This small beach town has become a hippie haven so budget backpacker accommodation is plentiful and most are within a stone’s throw of the beach. Owing to the burgeoning traveller scene, new options are popping up all the time but the favourites below are regularly recommended by our readers.
Where to stay near Palomino Beach:
2. Playa Blanca
- Location: Isla Baru
- Best for: Watersports
Playa Blanca divides opinion among backpackers. Some see it as an idyllic Caribbean beach, with soft sand and azure waters, whilst others see it as another wonderful spot that has been destroyed by overtourism.
This beach is located on Isla Baru off the coast of Cartagena. Until the construction of a bridge in 2014, the only way to get to Playa Blanca was by ferry or speedboat. Whilst this little complication wasn’t enough to deter hardy backpackers, it did succeed in keeping the overall tourist numbers down.
Getting to Playa Blanca since the completion of the bridge is easy. Public transport can take you from Cartagena and tours also depart from there. However, the downside is that the latter only leaves you with a few hours on the beach before you need to return to the city.
If you’re looking for a quiet, isolated beach, Playa Blanca is not for you. It is a busy tourist area and the water is often filled with jet skis or speedboats. You can hire these from vendors along the beach if you’re keen on an adrenaline hit!
If you want to experience Playa Blanca at its most exquisite, consider staying the night in one of the beachside accommodation options. Many of the budget options don’t have flushing toilets or running water but it’s all about the experience, right?
Where to stay near Playa Blanca:
3. Playa Soledad
- Location: Capurganá
- Best for: Relaxing, diving, snorkelling
It’s impossible to talk about the best beaches in Colombia without discussing those around the small jungle town of Capurganá. Frequently visited by those travelling from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands and located right on the edge of the infamous Darien Gap, Capurganá is often neglected by tourists.
Capurgana’s main beach, Playa Soledad, is by most standards, a quiet paradise. Expect to share the beach with just a few locals, the odd backpacker and vendors selling very strong cocktails!
The crystal clear waters are full of sheltered coral reefs which make for an amazing spot to snorkel or dive. After your dip, head up the beach and find a nice shaded spot in which to soak up the atmosphere of this laidback hideaway.
Once you’re finished at Playa Soledad, jump on a boat over to Sapzurro. The stretch of sand is perfect for lazing the day away, beer in hand. Alternatively, jump into the green waters for a peak at the rich underwater life.
Where to stay near Capurganá:
4. Playa Grande
- Location: Taganga
- Best for: Partying, chilling, diving
Taganga started life as a sleepy fishing village. However, in recent years it’s become a hotspot for travellers. Whilst some backpackers complain about dirty streets, badly-behaved tourists and issues with crime, others have fallen in love with the place and a few have never left!
Taganga is best known for being Colombia’s diving hotspot. Easily accessible from the bustling city of Santa Marta, dive courses here are cheap and the proximity to world-class sites like Tayrona National Park makes this very appealing for backpackers hoping to get dive qualified on a budget.
There are a few beaches in the area but Playa Grande is usually touted as the most beautiful. Not just popular with tourists, Playa Grande is also a favourite of the locals, especially at the weekends when people come flooding in from Santa Marta. Visit during the week for less intense crowds.
Where to stay near Taganga:
5. Parque Nacional Tayrona
- Location: Tayrona National Park
- Best for: Chilling, swimming (selected beaches only)
Tayrona National Park is undoubtedly home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia. The national park which sits between the laid-back beach town of Palomino and the bustling city of Santa Marta boasts beautiful beaches and rich jungles.
There are a variety of stunning beaches in Tayrona Park to choose from but the most popular is Cabo San Juan. One of the only beaches inside the national park that permits swimming, the inviting turquoise water attracts both locals and tourists alike.
As well as Cabo San Juan, there are a number of other beaches well worth a visit in the park. Playa La Piscina is another beach where it is possible to swim and Playa Nudista, Playa Arrecifes and Playa Brava are all also worth a visit.
If you’re wondering what there is to do at the beaches where it isn’t possible to swim, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of vendors selling local snacks and beers. Just remember to dispose of your rubbish responsibly!
Where to stay near Tayrona:
- Ecolodge Playa Brava Teyumakke ($$)
- Camping Tequendama Playa Arrecifes ($$)
- Ecohabs Tequendama Playa Cañaveral Parque Tayrona ($$)
6. Playas de Providencia
- Location: Providencia Island
- Best for: Relaxing
Providencia is a lesser-known island in the San Andrés Archipelago which sits off the coast of Nicaragua, some 750km from mainland Colombia! There are only two ways to reach the island and they both involve going through San Andres Island, the largest and busiest island in the archipelago. You can fly here from almost any Colombian airport and most flights take between one and two hours. From San Andres, you can either catch another flight or get a ferry to Providencia.
Once you arrive in Providencia, you will be greeted by an island only 7 km long and 4 km wide! This tiny spit of sand is home to around 5000 inhabitants and has strict limits on the number of tourists that are allowed to visit. This maintains the lazy Caribbean charm!
As far as the individual beaches on the island go, they are all amazing. Imagine soft white sand between your toes, gorgeous palm trees swaying in the wind and some of the clearest water imaginable lapping up the shore. We recommended hiring a scooter for a few days so you can visit each of the beaches multiple times – after all, how else will you settle on your favourite?!
Where to stay near Playas de Providencia:
7. Rincón del Mar
- Location: Rincón
- Best for: Chilling, moonlight swimming
Rincón del Mar has been growing in popularity recently but for now, it’s still an authentically lazy fishing village. There isn’t much to do there but this is its charm! If lazing on the beach for days on end isn’t for you, there are some other things to get your proverbial teeth into.
During the day, travellers can seek out spearfishing trips with local fishermen and even learn how to free dive. This activity involves diving for extended periods with no equipment, using a special technique of holding your breath. Only the bravest backpackers should attempt this!
At night, it is possible to head out to sea and swim with glowing bioluminescent plankton. Can you even say you’ve been travelling if you haven’t swum among these tiny glow-in-the-dark creatures?!
To get to Rincón del Mar from Cartagena, grab a bus heading to San Onofre. The bus takes around two hours and from there, you will need to find a taxi or moto to take you the rest of the way. This will take around 30 minutes so if things are running on time (remember you’re in South America – nothing runs on time) the whole journey should take you under three hours.
Where to stay near Rincón del Mar:
8. Costeño Beach
- Location: Costeño
- Best for: Lazing, surfing, backpacker vibes
Close to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona lies Costeño Beach, a backpacker haven and surfing hotspot. Little visited until recent years, Costeño Beach Hostel has put this beach town on the map and visitor numbers have been increasing ever since it opened.
Sitting directly on the Caribbean Sea, the hostel is much more than your average accommodation option and is in fact, the reason why many people visit the area. They are the only surf school nearby and offer great value-for-money lessons to beginners and more experienced surfers alike.
There isn’t all that much to do in Costeño which makes relaxing on the beautiful beach guilt-free. Play some volleyball, do some yoga or get a massage – me-time is the name of the game here! Remember to book your accommodation in advance to avoid missing out – options are quite limited along this stretch of the Colombian coastline.
Where to stay near Costeño Beach:
9. Playa Blanca at Lake Tota
- Location: Boyaca
- Best for: Lazing, bird spotting
Lake Tota is the largest lake in the Colombian Andes and the largest freshwater reservoir in the country, delivering clean water to over 350,000 people! At just a smidge over 3000 metres above sea level, just walking towards the water will take your breath away and that’s before you take into account the stunning mountain backdrop!
One of the closest beaches to Bogotá (though still four hours away!) Playa Blanca is THE spot to head to if you are around Lake Tota. Located on the lake’s southern shore, this stretch of golden sand is where the locals spend their summers relaxing, listening to music and having an all-around good time.
All you monster hunters and cryptozoologists out there will be pleased to hear that Lake Tota has its very own monster. Known as The Monster of Lake Tota, or Diablo Ballena (Devil Whale), this beast is said to have inhabited the lake as far back as the Muisca civilisation. Watch your toes while swimming in the cold water!
For those of you not into fairytales but with a penchant for rare animals, you can find some of Colombia’s endangered bird species here. Feathered friends such as the Apolinar’s Wren and the Bogotá Rail call the lake home – get your binoculars ready!
Where to stay near Playa Blanca, Lake Toda:
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